10 March 2017
Getting ready for a trip is just a question of putting one foot in front of another. One of those steps will be stepping off of Sequoia as she's put onto a freighter. Another step will be stepping onto an airplane and going to meet the boat as she arrives in England. Every step in between is about the same size - it's just that some are more consequential than others. This narrative is about some of these baby steps, on the way to getting Sequoia put aboard the MV Merwedegracht in Victoria about a week from now.
You'll recall that Craig decided not to take Sequoia up the coast because of his broken ribs. We hired Dave King to do that, accompanied by his friend Erik and our friend Mark. We hired Commanders Weather (a weather routing company) to give us recommendations about when to go. Even if you don't already know it, you probably suspect that the coasts of Oregon and Washington can provide some of the most difficult weather and sea conditions it's possible to find in the world. We told Commanders that we had to have the boat in Victoria for loading on March 18, so what we needed was the best weather window during that time period. They told us that March 3-5 looked pretty good, and then there wouldn't be another opportunity until about March 10. Dave, in consultation with Craig, decided to go for the March 3-5 window.
Craig went along for the trip down the river to Astoria on Friday, and I drove down to meet them, have dinner together and then bring Craig back home. They had a good trip down the river, although the rain was a bit more driving than was predicted. Certainly as I drove to Astoria, it was through sheets of wind-driven rain.
Sequoia and her crew left Astoria midday Saturday, timed for the most benign current state on the Columbia River bar. Shortly after crossing the bar, they evidently crossed into a dense field of crab traps, coming right up to the edge of the shipping lanes. Unfortunately the line from one of the traps got wrapped around Sequoia's prop, and there was a lot of back and forth, vibration, and eventually they shook the line loose (we think). The trip up the coast was fast, with plenty of wind from the south, and a favorable current. In the evening, Craig and Mark had a conversation on ham radio, where they talked about the problem with the crab trap. It's always very satisfying to make connection by radio, and we were able to see them on the marinetraffic.com website, showing their position just off Willapa Bay at that time.
Sequoia reached Neah Bay in record time, midday on Sunday, March 5. They reported that they'd seen plenty of snow out on the ocean, and the visible coastline was covered with snow. It turned out the alternator had bit the dust during the voyage, probably due to the vibration from the crab trap line (Craig says it's a very poor design to be vulnerable to vibration like that.) They were able to spend the night at the dock there, and recharge the batteries before the final leg to Port Angeles.
Craig made some calls, and was able to get a replacement alternator ordered. As it turns out, we had bought this alternator 364 days before it failed, and it had a one-year warranty. When has that ever happened? Every other experience, the item fails a day or two AFTER the warranty expires, not a day or two before! So the replacement alternator came to us without cost. Evidently we were not the first such failure. There had been an interim design change to fix the problem, and the alternator we would be getting would have the newer design.
We drove up to Port Angeles the next morning, and were able to meet Sequoia as she came into the harbor there. Craig was able to quickly unbolt the defective alternator, and we took that, and the three guys, home to Portland.
As I write this, we're preparing to make another trip up to Port Angeles, to get the new alternator installed, and take care of some other chores that have been awaiting a spare moment. Although it's pouring rain tonight, the forecast for tomorrow is pretty good, so we'll get up there early to take advantage of some promised sunshine.
02 March 2017 | St. Helens, Oregon
Many of you know that we've been planning a major sailing adventure which is now almost upon us. Lately we've been wondering whether we could start this adventure at all, as the fates have been throwing one thing after another at us, possibly in an attempt to dissuade us. It's not working! We're going!
I had my knee replaced nearly a year ago, and that overcame a major barrier to my being active enough (and flexible enough) to do this trip. Lots of PT was required, and we both joined a gym to ramp up on our general fitness and flexibility. In January, Craig fell off a ladder in the boatyard and broke a rib, in February I had a basal cell carcinoma removed from my face, and in March Craig will need to have unexpected major dental work. That's it. No more. We're going.
We've contracted with a shipping company to carry our sailboat, Sequoia, aboard a freighter to England. The actual date of shipping has been something of a moving target, but loading is now set to be March 17 or 18 in Victoria, B.C. Because of Craig's broken rib, we've had to hire a skipper to take the boat up the coast, arriving in Victoria at least a couple of days before the loading date. There's a line of storms heading at the Oregon and Washington coasts for the next week or more, so taking the boat to Victoria will be a major adventure. In conjunction with our hired skipper, we'll be looking for weather windows. I'm glad enough not to be part of that trip!
We've been loading the boat up with supplies for the boat and the coming summer, including cooking utensils, food, spare parts, emergency equipment, sewing supplies, music, movies, and everything else we've been able to think of. In preparation for the upcoming adventure we have new sails, new electronics, and a variety of updates for systems on the boat. Now we're down to the last few trips to the boat with cartloads of stuff, carrying everything down the dock through the rain and snow (this winter has been unreal in terms of the amount of nasty weather we've had!)
So what are our plans, you might ask? Well, the first thing is to get the boat to England. There will be a stopover in Palm Beach Florida, where Sequoia will get transferred onto another freighter. (Yes, that Palm Beach, winter White House of you-know-who). The boat may have to wait as long as 4 weeks to catch that second freighter. If that happens, we might catch a plane to Florida and go sailing.
Once we get to England and get Sequoia restored to full sailing condition, we plan to spend the summer cruising in the Baltic Sea. Many years ago we had a Swedish exchange student who came from an important Swedish maritime city, Karlskrona, on the south coast of Sweden. We visited Henrik and the Olsson family in Karlskrona in the dead of winter when the harbor was frozen solid, but there was born, I think, the idea of visiting again aboard our own boat. The Olssons even made us a gift of a maritime chart of Karlskrona and surrounding waters. At the time, I don't think we had any idea such a visit would actually become possible.
So the summer in the Baltic Sea will include the visit to Karlskrona as its centerpiece, but while we're there we'll also visit other parts of Sweden, as well as Germany, Denmark, Finland and perhaps St. Petersburg, Russia. We'll enter the Baltic through the Kiel Canal, and hope to complete a passage through Sweden along the Gota Canal. Very exciting to think about!
At the end of this summer, we'll return to the UK, put Sequoia on the hard somewhere, and fly home to Oregon. We'll play the 2017-18 seasons of our two orchestras in Oregon, and then ask for a one-year leave of absence from both. Returning to England in the spring of 2018, we'll sail south and west in a leisurely sort of way, planning to arrive in Oregon mid-summer, 2019.
Arrival home after 18 day passage from Hawaii
26 July 2011 | St. Helens/Scappoose, OR
Barbara, cloudy -- Portland trying for summer
We made it! We’re at home, contemplating the overgrown garden and the deer munching contentedly on everything, and most especially on those Oregon strawberries we’ve been longing for all year! Oh well – it’s good to be home, and everything seems to be in good order. The country is in political crisis, the politics is ugly, and so what’s new? We’re picking up the threads of our land-based life, and trying to remember old habits (like how, exactly, does that washing machine work?)
We expected the last few days of our passage from Hawaii to be relatively calm and flat, and we expected to motor most, if not all, of the way. It was just as expected, until about 24 hours before we arrived at the Columbia River bar. Then the wind came up, and we were soon close hauled in big, lumpy, confused seas. Nice to have the engine off, but we were soon rolling, banging and slapping, and meal preparation once again became that familiar exercise of athleticism and paranoia. I was doing a dive to the bottom of the refrigerator, which involves removing everything from the top layer, and finding someplace stable to put each removed thing. I’ve gotten used to using the stovetop, because the stove is on gimbals, so stays relatively level all the time – although it does swing a bit as the boat rolls back and forth. One of the items in the refrigerator’s top layer was a tall half-gallon container of orange juice. I put it on the front of the stove, and in a particularly violent lurch, while I wasn’t paying close enough attention, it tipped off the stove, hit the floor, and dumped its entire contents into the bilge, the beverage locker, onto the carpets, into the head (bathroom) and onto the floor of Mark’s cabin. Expletives were heard. Loud expletives.
Ultimately, we just decided to clean up the hard surfaces and throw towels down over the wet sticky carpeting. After all, weren’t we just 24 hours from home? The lumpy seas (we started to call it “the washing machine”) continued, and we all had difficulty sleeping. I’m sure it wasn’t helped by the knowledge that first light would bring us within sight of land.
At this point we were surrounded by lots of fishing boats. Craig had caught an albacore in the afternoon (that was dinner – YUM!) so it was not surprising that there were lots of fishing boats in the vicinity. We were using the radar almost constantly, because the boats were hard to see in the mists. At night it became much easier, both because the mists lifted, and because the fishers all seem to light up their decks and surrounding sea with big mercury vapor lamps. Even when a fishing boat is over the horizon, you can still see the loom of light above it. (The astronomers – the low light guys – must hate that practice of the fishing boats). At one point, just after I went off watch at midnight, Mark called me to come up, saying he had a boat in sight that he was having trouble identifying – it didn’t appear on the radar. The putative boat appeared to be a sailboat, with spinnaker out, strangely luminescent with a yellow-orange color. But it couldn’t be, because a spinnaker couldn’t possibly be out in that direction – into the wind. Light-bulb moment: it was the moon, just coming up over the horizon. No wonder it didn’t appear on the radar!
For the last few days, we had been adjusting our speed to time our arrival for (relatively) slack water at 5:00 am at the Columbia River bar. That’s the current stage when waves are least likely to be a problem. Of course we knew from friends that the Columbia River is extraordinarily full for this time of year, with a current of 2.5 knots running for most of its length at least up to the Portland area. Thus there really is no slack water at the bar—it’s always flowing out. We arrived about 20 minutes late (not bad for an 18 day passage!) and the bar was a complete non-event. We took pictures at the moment of crossing the bar, and there are no significant waves showing in the background. The sun was shining brilliantly, and the fog we could see just inland from Astoria dissipated before we reached it. We decided not to touch land at all in Astoria, but just bomb up the river as fast as we could, hoping to reach St. Helens by 5:00 or 6:00 pm. We had plenty of fuel left, and we pushed the throttle up to 2500 rpm, which yielded 8 knots of speed. (Speed through water: 5.8 knots, because of the adverse current).
We hooked up the wash down pump, and using river water, washed all the salt off the boat. We stowed lines, inflated fenders, vacuumed the interior, and ate leftovers out of the refrigerator. We were passed by a lot of commercial traffic heading upriver. At one point, we were being passed by a tug towing a barge that was carrying two other smaller barges. A giant Honda car-carrier came up behind him, and passed us both. I didn't know the river was wide enough for that!
The sunshine was quite lovely – apparently coming out just for our arrival. We reached St. Helens at about 6:00 and then had a lovely dinner with a welcoming committee of friends. Glad to be home!
Now, it’s back to the mountains of mildewed laundry and the piles of mail that have accumulated over the past year. We’ll alternate working on that with removing every mildewed thing from the boat, cleaning all with bleach, dousing the carpets with buckets of water, and then – hopefully – finding several days of hot sunshine in a row to dry everything out. Next we’ll try to tackle the overgrown garden, figure out how to scare off the deer, and then we’ll be off to California for the wedding of our son, David, to the lovely Tara Hernandez. I’m hoping that somewhere in there will be the opportunity for me to get together with old or new chamber music friends, and resume the life of a musician!
On passage from Kauai to Oregon
20 July 2011 | In the middle of the ocean
Several people commented that my last post, about our last weeks in Hawaii, seemed to be all about provisioning. I went back and looked at it, and they're right! We did lots of fun things in Hawaii, but there's no doubt my focus was on provisioning. Now that focus proves its merit. We're in the middle of day 14 of the passage, with 4-5 more days to go, and we still have fresh fruit and vegetables. That's all the more amazing, because most of my supplies came from Honolulu and are now about 20 days old - and that's counting from when I bought them! I've been able to keep some of these things in the refrigerator, but many, not. Yesterday I got out a cabbage purchased in Honolulu's Chinatown, grown in Hawaii, and never refrigerated. We experienced 80-85 degree heat for the first half of the passage, so I was really expecting the worst. Previous passages have yielded slimy green-grey messes when the brown paper around a cabbage is opened at this stage. But this Hawaiian cabbage had only a few brown marks around its outer leaves, and the base was doing its best to grow new roots (a few compact but feathery fronds).
Cooking, of course, is a neurotic, athletic experience, capable of producing full-blown hysteria. The first few days of the passage, we were close to the wind, on a starboard tack, so all liquid spills flowed either into the refrigerator/freezer, or under the cabinet. In the second half of the passage, we're heeled in the other direction (although not so dramatically), so spilled liquids aren't such a problem (except that managing any liquid in a seaway is, per se, a problem), but now if the cabinet doors are open, everything wants to fall out. Especially the salt and pepper grinders, which have that oh-so-elegant, but oh-so-top-heavy, tall thin shape.
Despite all the difficulties, menu planning and cooking are my primary creative outlets during passages. I've written before how the days have a sameness about them, and they stretch backwards and forwards in a seemingly unending procession. When lying in my bunk, or bundled up on watch, I think about what I could cook, what vegetables are about to spoil, what everyone would like, and what the wind and wave conditions might be at the cooking hour. The ocean tends to kick up (for its own perverse unknowable reasons) just before dinner. Our friends on Kasala call it the cocktail hour crush. I also have to fit the cooking schedule into my watch schedule and Craig's radio schedule. Too many times, I've had dinner ready at exactly the moment Craig is ready to report our position to the Pacific Seafarer's Net. (That's the information which appears at www.navshare.com - among other places -- and which you can see on a daily basis). (Thank you, Mark, for creating and maintaining that website!) Other times, the meal is hot and ready when we need to shorten sail (make the sails smaller because of increasing winds). But all and all, Mark and Craig report that they like what I'm cooking, and I think they're glad to have me doing it. Craig pitches in with a meal once in awhile when I'm desperate, and Mark cheerfully washes the dishes.
Most recently, our dinners have included tamale pie, fresh-baked pizza, beef stew, macaroni & cheese casserole and spaghetti a la carbonara. That last item was one Craig chose to make on a particularly rocky and rolly evening, and involves more than one liquid: boiling spaghetti - to be somehow drained into a colander above a pitching sink - and beaten eggs, to be tossed into the hot spaghetti along with chopped parsley, grated cheese, and bits of garlic-sauteed turkey ham. The end result was very successful, although the stove, counters, and rug - not to mention the expletives heard from the galley - evidenced some difficulties in making it all come together.
We're now four days away from Astoria. Every time we make a log entry, we've started adding the words: "___ nm to Astoria." The current figure, as of this moment is 528 nautical miles. That means we will likely arrive next Sunday, July 24, a passage of 18 days. It all depends on the wind and the current. We expect mild winds, with sometimes not quite enough wind to make our maximum desirable speed (about 7.5 knots). For a couple of hours each day, we turn on the engine, usually out of gear, to make electricity and hot water, and occasionally, when the wind falls short, in gear, to propel us a bit faster.
We're currently at latitude 46 degrees, heading more or less due east toward the mouth of the Columbia River. We know we're approaching the Pacific Northwest, because it's getting downright cold, especially at night. For the first half of the passage, we were still wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts during the day, and adding a light jacket at night. Now we're all bundled up, looking for more warm clothes that have not been compromised by a salt water dousing, a pernicious leak into the clothing locker, or just general marine air dampness. When I'm on watch at night, I'm wearing four layers - long underwear, fleece (x2) and foul weather gear. During the day, I'll settle for three! Maybe our blood has been thinned by being in the tropics for nearly a year. But Mark, who came to Hawaii only three weeks ago from Portland, also is feeling the cold. There's no sun - or maybe just an hour in mid-afternoon - so I assume we're seeing coastal fog, even though still about 500 miles out. Or maybe this is just a wretched summer in the Northwest, and those usual, lovely, six weeks of sunshine haven't yet arrived. I have this picture in my mind of how we'll motor up the Columbia River in bright hot sun, digging for those shorts and sleeveless shirts. We shall see.
Oahu to Kaua'ia
01 July 2011 | Hawaii
Barbara/hot and humid in a pleasant tropical way
I’m sitting in “Da Fuel Dock” store, where they have a few washers and driers for the benefit of boats in the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor. Our laundry from the last week is merrily spinning around, biding its time until it next demands attention from me. Seems like a good time to do a trip update for you, my dear family and friends. Craig is off returning the rental car, Mark (new crew, who arrived yesterday) is tweaking a web page so that you, my lucky readers, can watch our day-to-day progress on our upcoming passage from Kaua’i to Oregon. (See www.navshare.com) Plus, Mark tells me, the daily position reports will be automatically available to Facebook subscribers.)
We’ve been provisioning the last few days, stuffing the refrigerator and freezer to the gills, and finding every vacant space in cabinets and under the cabin sole (floor) to stuff cans of this and that, bags of flour and blocks of hard cheese. I have two giant folding crates full of fruits, vegetables and eggs. Hopefully they’ll keep us in tasty fresh food for most of the voyage.
This afternoon we’ll fuel up (and retrieve the clean, dry laundry), and then head out the mouth of Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, destination: Hanalei Bay on the north side of Kaua’i. As we head out, I’ll throw my orchid lei overboard to float on the water, supposedly assuring my return to the island. There’s actually a side motive for throwing out the lei: I need the space in the refrigerator! Craig gave me that lei for our anniversary dinner -- two weeks ago – and it still looks as fresh as the day he gave it to me. Orchids are amazing that way!
We’ve had a great time in Honolulu. It starts and ends with the Hawaii Yacht Club, where we’ve had an oh-so-friendly welcome, an island of serenity within the tourist bustle of Waikiki. The club is busy now with preparations for the arrival of the Transpac fleet. The boats leave California on July 4, and the first boat is expected to arrive five days later. (That’s an astonishing time, considering we’ll take three weeks, more or less, to sail to Oregon.) Club members are attending committee meetings and work parties, all to get ready for the arrival of the racing yachts.
We rented a car for the two weeks we’ve been here. That allowed us to do some exploration outside of the Honolulu area, and we were able to do every conceivable Honolulu errand we wanted. Craig went to West Marine and Ace Hardware. I mostly went to grocery stores for the provisioning project, including Costco, Safeway, Walmart, Foodland and the Saturday Farmers Market at Kapiolani Community College. Perhaps the best provisioning (at least for fresh fruits and vegetables) was at the Chinatown vendors. The prices were the best in Honolulu, maybe because there are so many vendors, close to each other, and competing strenuously.
The prices in Honolulu – even Chinatown – are breathtaking. In a way that’s understandable, because most things come in on ships or airplanes. Local fruits/vegetables are priced equally high, if not higher, perhaps just because they can. But indeed the cost of living is much higher here, so the farmers have to make more money than on the mainland, just to live. The ultimate shopping experience (pricewise and otherwise) has to be the Whole Foods Market. I went there for the freshest possible produce (and that was successful) but the prices! Zucchini, $3.99 a pound. Tomatoes, $5.99 a pound. Radishes: $2.99 for a bunch – seven radishes! Yikes! I looked for a five-pound bag of plain old sugar at the Whole Foods Market, and they don’t even stock such a thing. Instead they have little bags of organic fancy-named sugars. Needless to say, I had to go to Safeway for some things, including that five pound bag of sugar.
One day we drove across the island, through the Ko’olau Range, through the rain showers and the fog, to the windward coast of Hawaii. At first, it’s just a big extended suburb (which could almost be Southern California), but as you travel northwest along the shore, the civilization thins out, and things become more scenic, more interesting. We stopped at He’eia State Park, which the Lonely Planet Guide describes as “looking abandoned.” I think the truth is that it rains so much there, everything is green, including some of the buildings. There were chickens wandering around, and below the banquet building (it advertises being a venue for weddings), we found a garden devoted to traditional Polynesian farming plants and techniques. Daniel, a friendly guy our age, apparently pure Hawaiian, was tending the garden. (Actually he was sitting on the steps “talking story” with a couple of other folks). Craig approached them (he is so much better at that than I), and asked about the garden. Daniel started telling us about the taro, including side trips to Hawaiian origin stories, explanations of language, and stories about his grandfather. We spent a couple of hours with him, learning many interesting things. “Aloha” means “breath of life given from above” (“ha” = breath of life; “alo” means God-given). Daniel said that ciguatera (a poison sometimes found in reef fish) is undoubtedly caused by mustard gas dumped in a Hawaii harbor. It affects the entire tropical world, he said. We are quietly skeptical.
Daniel became vehement when talking about were the actions of the US military in commandeering sacred land from the Hawaiians. He’eia State Park is an area that was formerly used for preparing a body after death. The body was then loaded onto a canoe. At dusk, the canoe was paddled across Kane’ohe Bay to Mokapu Penninsula, giving the mourners the illusion that the body was being transported to the great beyond. (Daniel pointed out that “kapu” – or in English, taboo – means that the land is sacred to Hawaiians.) But now the Marine Corps has the entire peninsula as its Hawaii base, including an airfield and a golf course. Daniel said that periodically, bones work their way up through the grass in the golf course, and the officials just shove them back in. Daniel has participated in talks with various government officials, who uniformly say they feel bad about the Hawaiian’s loss of access to their sacred ground and burial place. But the military is mighty and unwilling to give up its strategically located land, no matter how bad individual officers may feel about the whole thing.
We did many of the usual tourist things in Honolulu. We visited the Iolani Palace where the last royalty of Hawaii reigned before being ousted by local businessmen. We visited Chinatown, the Saturday Farmers Market, and of course Pearl Harbor. We visited the battleship Missouri and the Arizona Memorial, both very moving experiences. Our last outing was to the Bishop Museum, which contains a vast number of artifacts from Hawaii’s history. King Kameha’s fabulous cloak is there, made from the yellow feathers of 80,000 Mamo birds. The Mamo bird is now extinct and one wonders whether the King’s fabulous cloak had anything to do with it.
After the Bishop Museum closed, the festivities got underway for the arrival of the seven Polynesian canoes that sailed from New Zealand in April. The canoes were crewed by representatives of a number of different island nations, including the Marquesas, Tahiti, Tonga, Fiji, the Cook Islands, Samoa – all places we visited in our trip through the South Pacific. But these canoes had no GPS or modern navigating instruments, and relied instead on the Polynesian methods of navigation, passed down through the generations. On the central lawn of the museum, a covered bandstand had been set up, and we listened and watched a number of troupes of hula dancers, and we listened to speeches about the significance of this voyage. The canoes are heading for California next – and that would seem to be outside of the traditional Polynesian voyaging range. Although… Daniel of the taro patch assured us that ancient Hawaiians went to the west coast of North America. He thinks there are many similarities between native Hawaiian and native American cultures. He offers as an example the Hopi Indians. He’s just sure that they are a lost tribe of Hawaiians – you can tell from the name. Hawaiian: “Ho’opili” Just like Hopi, right?
We’ll spend a few days anchored in Hanalei Bay, swimming off the back step, exploring ashore a bit, and preparing the boat for the big passage. Provisioning – so we hear – is not an option on Kaua’i, at least not near Hanalei Bay. It’s a big resort place, and there are only a few convenience stores. I’m hoping there’s a Laundromat as well.
[Later] I was unable to finish up this trip report before we left Honolulu. We traveled overnight and had a nice sail, a few rain showers, and a spectacular star show. Arriving here in Hanalei Bay we were struck by the exotic tropical character of the place. Mark’s comment was that it looks like the set for “Lost.” We haven’t been ashore yet, just relaxing after the overnight passage. I’ll try to write again before we leave on passage for Oregon (tentatively slated for July 6). If you like, you can follow our progress across the ocean here: www.navshare.com. Follow the link to see a map of our most recent position report (you may have to use the zoom out to get an understandable picture.
Molokai to Honolulu
19 June 2011 | Hawaii
Barbara, partly cloudy
Today is Fathers Day, and I’m thinking about my father, his enjoyment of sailing, and how much he would have liked to be part of our journey. Sonata, the 39 foot sailboat he bought when I was in college, was a Transpac boat, built in the ‘50s to be a high-speed contender in that race. (Of course by today’s high-tech standards, it was somewhat of a slug.) So here we are in Transpac country, at the Hawaii Yacht Club. Everything is focused on the arrival of the Transpac racers, about 4 weeks from now. The dock we are on was damaged in the March tsunami, but they got it repaired (and coincidentally ready for us) because of the urgency of the arrival of the Transpac fleet.
Mark and Dot Hazlett, of Pu’aena, had arranged for us to stay at the Waikiki Yacht Club, across the way, and it was a difficult decision to choose HYC instead. But ultimately we decided not to pay the extra for the WYC facilities (including a swimming pool), since we’ll be here for about two weeks.
These are really nice people here. Chris, the HYC manager has gone out of his way to be helpful. Parking permits are scarce to nonexistent, but he tracked down a permit for us. The club’s bartender is on vacation in Las Vegas, and he had left his parking permit in his car. The car was at his mechanic’s shop, and a neighbor had the key. Chris contacted the bartender, the mechanic and the neighbor, and then drove out to retrieve the permit for us. Astonishing! It has enabled us to rent a car for at least the next week. We plan outings by car all over Oahu.
I’ll back up and tell you about Molokai, the last island we visited. It was different from any of the other Hawaiian Islands, primarily because there are very few tourists. Other than one big, remote golfing resort, there seem to be no big hotels. Most people who want to stay there have to find a rental house or condominium. Of course that wasn’t a problem for us – we anchored in Kaunakakai Harbor, and dinghied ashore.
Of course getting anchored in Kaunakakai Harbor was not an easy thing. Adjacent to the town of Kaunakakai, the reef extends out half a mile, and is mostly exposed at low tide. When they created the harbor, they dredged a 20-foot-deep rectangular space out of the reef, built a wharf in the middle, and built a causeway out to the wharf. The whole affair sticks out into the trade winds, and on the leeward side of the wharf, you still experience the 25 knot winds, even though the waves are knocked down to nothing. In 25 knot winds, it is quite difficult to anchor. Not only that, but as far as the State is concerned, the dredged area is a turning basin for the ferry, the tugs and the barges that come into the harbor. The only consideration for visiting yachts is that they stay out of the way. So the available anchoring area is limited to one small corner, and you’d better not swing out into the turning basin when the wind changes. (And of course, you’d better not swing the other way, or you’ll be onto the reef.) To make a long story short, we ended up putting out three anchors – two forward and one to the stern. It’s a long process, and pulling them all up when you get ready to leave is a drawn-out, messy job. There’s all sorts of garbage on the bottom of the harbor, and the mud is sticky. Each anchor pulled up at least its own weight in garbage and mud, which then had to be removed and washed off.
But anchoring difficulties aside, Molokai was an interesting and charming place. We went ashore and rented an elderly, beat up, but expensive Toyota from the only rental agency on the island. We drove from end to end and top to bottom of the island in the 24 hours we had the car. The little town of Kaunakakai (commercial center of the island) has a middle America look about it – little stores with false fronts, dusty shops, and no traffic lights. We found the Laundromat, the natural foods store, the grocery store, and we poked our heads in a souvenir shop and an art gallery. We had an expensive but mediocre plate lunch, and shook our heads at the prices of things. Tomatoes, $4 a pound; gasoline, $5.21 a gallon. Rental car with 104,000 miles on the odometer: $60 a day.
First we drove north, to the windward side of the island. At Palaau State Park, we looked off a 2000 foot cliff, down at Father Damien’s leprosy colony at Kalaupapa. Hawaiian leprosy victims were banished and isolated there for a century before a drug was found to prevent the progression and transmission of the disease. Now it’s a national historical park, but some of the residents (now very elderly) still live there by choice. Escorted tours are possible but expensive, and there is no road to reach there. The only access is by trail, boat or airplane. Father Damien (now Saint Damien) ministered to the residents there in the nineteenth century, before he caught the disease himself and died. The view from the Palaau cliffs is gorgeous and astonishing. Big whitecaps out in the Pacific Ocean reminded us why we didn’t choose to sail the windward side of the island. (Reportedly, though, it’s a spectacular sail).
Next we drove out to the west end of the island, a relatively unpopulated area, with a long gorgeous beach. Much of the west end of the island is owned by Molokai Ranch, an entity with a somewhat checkered and much-reviled history. Some time ago, it was planned to be a huge development, and there are miles of road with installed utilities (including fire hydrants), concrete paving, and bare land. There are some enclaves of luxury homes, but it’s mostly just kiawe brush. The cracks in the road have grass growing up through them, and sometimes the road is encroached by the brush and grasses down to one lane. The developers have floated a number of plans, but the island residents seem to hate them. The current plan, which we read about in the local paper, is to install giant wind turbines on the Molokai Ranch property, to create electricity for Honolulu. According to the paper, 92 percent of the residents are against this plan. The huge cost of the undersea electrical cable would reportedly be borne by ratepayers, including Molokai residents.
Our last drive in the rental car was out to Halawa Bay on the northeast corner of the island. This 27 mile road narrows down to one lane for the last 7 miles or so, and passes over a windswept ridge before dropping down into a quintessential tropical valley. There’s a sacred waterfall at the head of the valley, with beach, palm trees and snorkeling at the seaward end. Along the road, we saw ancient Hawaiian fish ponds, constructed by pre-contact Hawaiians from heavy lava boulders. The walls are placed so that the small fish can swim in, and when they get bigger, they’re too big to swim out. Many of the fish ponds are still maintained functioning today. We also saw two charming little churches built by Father Damien (apparently his duties encompassed more than the leprosy colony.) And we stopped and had a Hawaiian plate lunch which was much tastier (and somewhat cheaper) than the one we’d had in Kaunakakai.
Two of the other sailboats in the Kaunakakai harbor are worth mentioning: Libertatia (Lowell, Jenine and Emmett) came in the day after us. It’s a 1935-era boat which we had first seen in Honolua Bay. Their engine is somewhat questionable – we watched them leave the next day, sailing out of the harbor (straight into the wind), and having difficulty rounding the buoys. We watched as they lowered a dinghy, attached a tow rope, and attempted to move the boat forward under oar-power. They did finally make it, but they had a difficult upwind passage ahead of them. Lowell reported that he had found a job in Alaska, so they were taking the boat back to Lahaina. We don’t know if Emmett and Jenine will be continuing on alone.
The other sailboat of note is Doubloon. Its owner, “Stretch,” gave all sorts of helpful advice during the anchoring process. At his suggestion, we put out the stern anchor, and he told us all about local conditions. Stretch, and his dog, Honey Girl, are long term residents there. When we were ready to move on to the next anchorage, Lono Harbor, he advised us to give it a miss because of the (according to him) undesirable resident there, “Chuck.” “He’ll steal things off your boat in the middle of the night.” We chose to ignore that particular advice (other cruisers had positive things to say about Chuck). In the end, I figure there must be some sort of feud going between Stretch and Chuck.
Lono Harbor is an interesting spot, out of the waves but still windy, in a lonely uninhabited area just south of Molokai Ranch. Apparently it was built for barges in the 30’s, when there was an active aggregate mining operation in the area. Now it’s a park, but not much used. One reason may be the bees. As soon as we had the anchor down, the bees started arriving. Before long there were 20 or 30 bees buzzing around inside the boat, ultimately congregating inside the galley’s water faucet. We deployed all our bug screens, and then Craig went at the remaining bees inside the boat with a flyswatter. The surviving bees mostly moved to our shower at the stern step. Although it was shut off, there is evidently a miniscule leak which attracted them. They didn’t go away until after dark, and they were back in the morning at first light, when we pulled up the anchor for the passage to Honolulu.
The passage to Honolulu was the roughest channel crossing yet. Despite a forecast for 20 knots of wind, with occasional gusts, we experienced on average 25-30 knots, with regular gusts to 35, and an occasional gust to 40. The seas built to 8-10 feet, and we were tossed around a good bit. We wound up with three reefs in the main and only a handkerchief of a jib out. At one point we were joined by a tiny finch. This little bird, only 2 inches long, perched on a wire connected to one of our solar panels. He closed his eyes, rocked back and forth, and hung on for dear life for about a half an hour. He was gone briefly, and then he turned up on one of the seat cushions in the cockpit. That didn’t last long (nothing to hang onto), and then he flew into the cabin. Craig was asleep down there, so I figured I’d warn him about the bird when he woke up. Unfortunately, I didn’t say anything in time, Craig inadvertently startled the bird, and he flew out the companionway like a rocket, into the sky. That’s the last we saw of the little finch, and I hope he made it to land. We were still about 20 miles out…
It was really quite thrilling to see Oahu and then, more distinctly, Diamond Head in the distance. We passed the Diamond Head buoy, which is at the finish line for the Transpac Race. Then scooting along Waikiki Beach, with its dozens of skyscraper hotels, surfers and tourist boats. We found the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, and then the Hawaii Yacht Club. Ka’sala was at the dock, and Lyneita helped us with our lines. So here we are, ready to enjoy a couple of weeks with the tourists, before we move on to Kauai and the North Pacific.
As I said at the outset, I’m thinking today about my father (who died about 15 years ago). But we’re very fortunate to still have Craig’s dad (now age 96). We talked with him by phone this morning in Lafayette, wished him a Happy Father’s Day. He caught us up with the news of the world, and reminisced about his own days in Honolulu (including on December 7, 1941).